US universities continue to ban TikTok from campus networks and devices, University of Wisconsin latest

Universities across the US continue to ban TikTok from campus networks and devices. TikTok has already been banned by the state governments of over 22 states and faces a possible federal-level ban in the United States. Image Credit: Pexels

The University of Wisconsin became the latest US university to ban TikTok, the short video platform from the university network and from devices that they manage. Some of the biggest Public universities across the US have banned the ByteDance-owned app, in recent months.

Before the University of Wisconsin, the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, two of the biggest campuses in the US banned the social app. 

Universities in the US often use TikTok as well as other social media platforms as an outreach tool to connect with high school students and get them to seek admission to their campuses. 

The flurry of recent campus TikTok bans was inspired by executive orders issued by a number of state governors. Public universities in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Dakota and now Texas have taken measures to restrict access to the app, blocking it from campus Wi-Fi networks and school-owned devices.

Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, issued an order in early December requiring Texas state agencies to remove the app from all government-owned devices due to privacy and security issues related to TikTok’s Chinese ownership. Abbott referred to the issues as “increasing risks” and gave agencies until the middle of February to prepare for the modifications.

The University of Texas’ Advisor to the President for Technology Strategy Jeff Neyland stated this week that “the university is taking these crucial efforts to remove threats to information held in the university’s network and to our essential infrastructure.”

Earlier this month, Democratic Governor Tony Evers banned the use of TikTok on Wisconsin state phones and other devices, citing potential risks to privacy, safety and security.

TikTok is in a precarious position in the US. While it regularly tops the chart of popular and most downloaded apps in the US, it is under heavy scrutiny at the federal and state level.

The Biden administration banned TikTok from government devices in a bill signed at the end of December. FBI Director Christopher Wray raised red flags over TikTok’s ability to collect data on its users and its potential to spread Chinese state influence operations around the same time.

The Biden administration’s concerns regarding TikTok’s Chinese ownership are in continuation of those held by the Trump administration. The Trump administration attempted to force ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US business to a new owner, though those unprecedented efforts fell apart.

ByteDance has never been forthright about how it moves data between its offices in the US and China, raising questions about what else the corporation hides. The parent company of TikTok monitored journalists’ IP addresses to see which staff members were disseminating unauthorised information.

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